Musicals in Madrid: giving New York and London a run for their money
Popular musical theatre developed in the United States in the 1920s but has since set up permanent shop in Madrid. In the last two decades, these family shows have become a vital part of the city’s tourist experience, as it’s now the world capital of musicals in Spanish. Only beaten in both size and prestige by London’s West End and New York’s Broadway, Madrid sells more than three million tickets for musicals every year, double the number of people who go along to football games at the stadiums of the city’s big teams. 22% of spectators come from outside the city. With productions that are both small and large, national and international, more than a dozen important theatres regularly premiere musicals all over the capital. The Gran Vía theatres take centre stage, but other areas such as Malasaña, Príncipe Pío, and the neighbourhoods of Las Letras and Salamanca also have a part to play.
Musicals on Gran Vía, the Madrilenian Broadway
Since its construction at the beginning of the twentieth century, the vibrant Gran Vía has become the place where Madrilenians go in search of fun. That’s why it’s no surprise that it’s become what many refer to as the Madrilenian Broadway. It’s been home to cinemas and theatres since it was first constructed, but a crisis in these two sectors has meant that in the last two decades many of its historic auditoriums, some with capacity for more than 1,000 people, have become venues for musical theatre, this popular genre on the rise. Today, Gran Vía’s billboards advertise the best musicals in the capital, with the added attraction that the shows take place in attractive historic buildings. The Teatro Lope de Vega, opened in 1949, is today well-known internationally on the musical scene. Productions of the likes of La Bella y la Bestia [Beauty and the Beast], Jesucristo Superstar [Jesus Christ Superstar], Los Miserables [Les Misérables] and the unbeatable El Rey León [The Lion King], which has been running for eight years straight, have premiered at this theatre.
The renamed Teatro EDP Gran Vía, which was, for more than half a century, home to Gran Vía’s old cinema, has been specialising in musical theatre since 2004. Musicals like El Jovencito Frankenstein [The Young Frankenstein] and Jesus Christ Superstar have been put on here, as has the musical adaption of the film Ghost, which did so well in London and New York.
The great Teatro Coliseum, which opened in about 1932, has also had its fair share of musical theatre triumphs in the last decade. Classics like Cats, Beauty and the Beast, Fiebre del Sábado Noche [Saturday Night Fever], Chicago, Mamma Mia and Anastasia have been unveiled here. The Teatro Rialto, an old cinema that opened its doors in 1930, is the other auditorium dedicated to musicals on Gran Vía. It was here that, in 2005, after being converted into a theatre, the most successful Spanish musical in history premiered: Hoy No Me Puedo Levantar [I can’t get up today], based on the songs of the group Mecano.
A city that’s crazy about musical theatre
Madrid’s musical world isn’t confined to Gran Vía. The growth of the musical theatre business has encouraged other theatres to jump on the bandwagon, meaning the capital has plenty to offer. A new trend has even emerged: building temporary theatres for big productions.
Teatro Nuevo Apolo
On the Plaza de Tirso de Molina, in the centre, you’ll find the Teatro Nuevo Apolo, successor of the legendary Teatro Apolo that stood on Alcalá street until the nineteenth century. Relocated to this square in 1932, for the last few years its varied programme has included big musical theatre shows, one of the most stand-out ones being the world premiere of El Médico [The Physician], based on Noah Gordon’s best-seller. Currently, you can catch Forever, a show about Michael Jackson’s career, the only one to be endorsed by the family of the late musician.
Teatro Nuevo Alcalá
Located in the heart of the Salamanca neighbourhood, the Teatro Nuevo Alcalá, which has had various names and incarnations since its opening in 1926, has a long history of musical theatre. In 1975, when the theatre was known as Alcalá Palace, the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, a worldwide hit, opened here. In 2003, its doors having been closed for more than a decade, it reopened as part of the new musical theatre hype, and has since enjoyed success with Grease, Priscilla ‘Reina del Desierto’ [Priscilla, Queen of the Desert] and the much-lauded Billy Elliot.
One of Madrid’s most illustrious theatres, the Teatro Calderón, in the Las Letras neighbourhood, is a beautiful Baroque building that has carved out a reputation for musical productions since it opened in 1917. Back in the eighties, it started to introduce Spanish musicals (such as Carmen, Carmen by Antonio Gala), but it would come into its own in the twenty-first century, hosting big international productions like Hello Dolly and We Will Rock You. It grabbed everyone’s attention with the Broadway classic West Side Story, premiering the original version for the first time in Spain.
This beautiful, small venue in the neighbourhood of Malasaña, opened in 1880 and was the theatre par excellence of the Madrilenian bourgeoisie during the twentieth century. After a short halt in the eighties, the Teatro Lara was reopened in 1994. It now offered a more commercial programme, with musicals and other spectacles standing out. Since 2013, it’s been home to another Spanish musical that has now become a cult phenomenon: La Llamada, by the popular Javis (Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi).
Gran Teatro Bankia Príncipe Pío
The old Estación del Norte art deco building, from 1928, now contains the Gran Teatro Bankia Príncipe Pío, which, with capacity for 1,600 is a new leading light in the capital’s cultural world. This space puts on Spanish musical spectacles like La Fuerza del Destino (a tribute to Mecano) or the cabaret Cielo Santo.
An area of 7,000 square metres covered by a canopy designed specifically for a musical super production. This is Espacio 33, erected at the Feria de Madrid (IFEMA fairgrounds) to create a home for one of the most sensational shows of the season. 33 El Musical is a spectacle that tells the story of the ‘biggest influencer of all time’: Jesus Christ. This new space, the largest temporary theatre ever built in Spain, might well start a trend that other musicals will follow, leaving theatres behind to create their own purpose-built stages.
Information of interest
- For detailed information about the programme, we recommend you check out the schedule of musicals on Madrid’s official tourism site.